It’s SPRING!!!

By which I mean, I HAVE A BACKYARD AGAIN!!!

Today was a horrible terrible day for the beginning of it. We woke up tired. Our neighbourhood playgroup was full when we got there. I decided to run some errands, and chaos ensued. I will spare you the details mostly because I am starting to have concerns about my blood pressure; I don’t want to re-live anything through the re-telling!

The afternoon didn’t go much better. My little guy only slept for less than an hour, and I was soooooo grumpy, I basically had no ability to be a normal person around my kids. Which always turns them into wild animals.

But! Around 3 pm, I was still fighting the urge to collapse in a heap, so I got a few toys together in a bag and we headed outside to the little side yard of our apartment building.

There isn’t much back there: just a lawn, a hexagonal picnic table, some poorly tended plants, trees, and fences on all sides. But today it was paradise. Not a patch of snow in sight, and the whole thing was in full warm afternoon sun. Instantly we breathed a collective sigh of relief and got down to the business of playing outside.

My little guy toddled around and amused himself while my daughter created whatever crazy worlds 4-year-olds like to live in. While they played, I went around picking up the pieces of garbage that get swept in from the sidewalk and the adjacent parking lot, my daughter helping me when she felt like it.

While I worked, I couldn’t help coming up with some plans for the space so we can use it better. Never mind that we used the space quite ideally this afternoon. No, we need PROJECTS! At the very least I’d like to try growing a few salad greens, and maybe plant a rhubarb plant. Though I’m sure once I do that we’ll decide to move.

The thing is, once the leaves come in on the trees, the yard is mostly shaded, so I’m not sure what will grow. So if you have any ideas for yummy shade-loving plants that would grow in Ottawa (zone 5), please let me know!

Also, if you have suggestions for frugal gardening, of course I’m all ears.

Guerrilla gardening in my own back yard

Our apartment building has a side yard, breezy and shaded by several large trees and a row of small cedars. It faces south onto a parking lot, and no one goes back there. Last year a young guy who lived in our building used to smoke back there and play his guitar, but he moved out in the winter, and now we’re the only users of the leafy green space.

It’s falling into disrepair. The old super’s wife used to tend the garden, but since he died, no one has weeded or pruned or planted. The leaves are still on the ground from the fall. So I started poking around, doing a bit of weeding in the front, and one day a company rep said I could “probably put in a little garden in the back” if I wanted. He couldn’t see why not. And do I want? Oh yes!

I’m not sure why I never tried this before. I guess this year things are looking so particularly dire back there that I know I wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes. And since the general yard work isn’t being done, I figure I can earn my keep by raking, pruning and weeding.

The other thing that always kept me from leaping into the dirt back there is that it is quite shady. It’s glorious on summer days, but I’m just not sure what kind of food I could grow back there. There are rose bushes that flower, and peonies, and even a grape vine. Is there any way I can predict what might grow other than by trial and error? Any food recommended to grow in shaded south-facing lots?

I’m completely new to gardening, but now this summer I find myself gardener times two! Any help or advice is appreciated!

My plans thus far include:

– a rhubarb plant. I figure they will need more light at the beginning of the season, before the trees come into leaf. If anyone has a cutting for me, let me know!

– strawberries

– leafy green things like lettuce and chard

– some cooking herbs

– carrots

– green onions

– potatoes?

So, I’ve got lots of plans. I probably won’t grow all of these things this year, but gradually add more each year until I’m producing all our food from this little lot. Let me know what shady food plants you’ve successfully grown! And then in August, come over and share my harvest 🙂